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It has to be Readable

By James Caldwell | Published: February 11th, 2011

There are so many key phrases in the design industry and for the last decade the technology industry has supplied the design industry with even more jargon. We now talk about sustainability, ROI, stakeholders, experiential design and usability as we have evolved from paper, to screen, to multitouch to gestural… and the list keeps growing. But every time I sit down with clients I try and take them back to the core purpose of having empathy with their audience and making sure that their message is eminently readable.

Readability

An exercise in readability.

For me, readability should be the number one concern, but we often get lost in all the buzzwords and current ideologies that many times run interference with great, easily understood communication. We need our visuals to be clear in order to understand graphic communication but the message is seldom as clear as it could be.

Although we seem to have a good grasp of the printing process, display technology is still advancing at a rather fast rate. Considering that the technology industry is investing billions of dollars into in enhanced displays to help people more easily comprehend what is on a device why are content providers obfuscating their content? Although my personal attention span is high, even I have a difficult time reading on a display because of all the distractions. Technologically speaking; pixel density, improved colour accuracy and greater contrast ratios aren’t necessarily helping me understand anyone’s message any better, in fact I would almost argue that if we went back to CGA resolutions I would be less distracted.

Fortunately there are some initiatives right now that take readability very seriously. Basically both serve up platform and resolution independent content that can be easily read without distraction. The two companies I am referring to are Treesaver and Readability.

Treesaver

Treesaver is an open source JavaScript framework and platform independent technology based on HTML5, which allows for the fluid reformatting of text, images and video. I think the best thing about this technology is that it automatically reformats gracefully for various screen sizes:

Obviously one of the benefits of this technology is that it encourages great design because the designer can place more emphasis and time on a single layout. And instead of wondering what the next ‘killer product’ will be, e.g., the iPad, one no longer has to be boxed in by a single technology standard.

In the end, the reading experience is great for all concerned: there is minimal distraction for the reader and more attention can be secured by the designers into original content design that better uses the native screen real estate. I must close by saying that my old boss and mentor Roger Black is a partner in this endeavour.

Readability

This is another very simple but effective technology play. Readability is an application that functions as a browser add-on, which allows for the unobstructed reading of saved articles. Once one saves the article they can then read it at their leisure on any device at a more convenient time. As a bonus this technology also allows one to share their reading lists.

I have only one wish for this application: I hope it becomes an open source project to allow people the option of distributing their content freely.

Both of these technologies cater to the content providers or writers by allowing for monetary benefit. I encourage all readers to go to both sites, learn more and play around.

Although both these initiatives are designed to benefit article content, I think the message is clear that we as readers want and need better experiences when it comes to the delivery of content on display devices. Both of these companies are taking grand steps towards achieving this and both seem to be very flexible with their delivery methods. I am sure that in the near future we will all benefit.


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